Like fashion, hairstyle trends come and go with the seasons. However, braided styles have stood the test of time — especially for Black women. Cornrows, in particular, are not only a great protective style, but they’re also timeless and can be worn in several different ways for just about any occasion.
Cornrows are also rooted in history and African heritage, with depictions of women wearing cornrows dating as far back as 3000 B.C. Later, enslaved Africans in the U.S. wore cornrows (naming them after the rows of corn they resembled) and reportedly even used the style to communicate escape routes (via 21Ninety).
Today, cornrows, which are created by braiding the hair close to the scalp, are worn for function, protection, cultural connection, and beauty. If you’re looking for ideas for your next cornrow hairstyle, here are some unique designs worn by celebrities like Regina King, Zendaya, and Issa Rae to inspire you.
Beyoncé is no stranger to an iconic cornrow hairstyle (remember those legendary “Lemonade” braids?). The singer opted for a detailed flapper look with a low ponytail for the “Lion King” premiere in 2019 (via Harper’s Bazaar).
Superstar Zendaya proved straight-back cornrows can be glam at the “Spider-Man: No Way Home” premiere in 2021 (via Allure). Try this look when you want your makeup to take center stage.
WNBA champion Candace Parker’s high braided ponytail is simple and perfect for any season. Leave the braided hair loose or use a weave ponytail to achieve this fun look.
Dominique Fishback dressed her medium-sized Fulani braids with wooden beads for a regal, yet simple, look. The “Judas and the Black Messiah” actress paired her cornrows with a fresh makeup look.
Looking for a way to try out blond hair? Ask your hairstylist to add highlights to your cornrows like musician Taura Stinson’s cute golden style.
No stranger to cornrow hairstyles, singer Jorja Smith shows off her beauty with a hairstyle braided away from her face. To achieve her look, braid six to eight cornrows straight back and finish with a low bun or ponytail.
When Alicia Keys burst onto the music scene, she also brought her signature braids with her. Spice up your waves with a cool cornrow design like the “Fallin'” singer did at the 2006 NAACP Image Awards (via CBS News).
Are you looking for a way to style your natural hair for an event? Try model and actress Yaya DaCosta’s beautiful updo with mini cornrows.
Amandla Stenberg looked simply chic in an easily achievable cornrow hairstyle at the 2018 Hollywood Film Awards. Paired with a low bun, this look can be dressed up or down.
Tracee Ellis Ross
Tracee Ellis Ross is frequently spotted in creatively styled braids. The star paired straight-back goddess braids with a single cornrow down the middle for the premiere of “A Wrinkle in Time” (via Teen Vogue).
“If Beale Street Could Talk” actress Teyonah Parris pinned large cornrows together for a gorgeous updo. Be sure to save this style for your next formal event.
Ciara accepted the Icon 360 Award at an event for Harlem’s Fashion Row with simple straight-back cornrows (via Vogue). The “Like a Boy” singer left her braided locks hanging over a turtleneck jumpsuit.
Ella Balinska looked stunning at the 2021 Fashion Awards (via WWD). For the event, the actress gathered large cornrows together in a bun at the nape of her neck.
Erica Ash attended the “Uncle Drew” premiere in 2018 with gold accents added to her cornrows. You can recreate this look by matching hair accessories with your jewelry.
“Grown-ish” actress Yara Shahidi leveled up her medium straight-back cornrows with a structured, braided ponytail for the 2019 CFDA Awards (via Vogue). Use this as inspiration for a fashion-forward look.
Keep your style simple like actress Tia Mowry-Hardrict. The famous twin wore two cornrows that framed her face for the Norma Jean Gala in 2014 (via Essence).
Get model Jourdan Dunn’s waist-length cornrow hairstyle by varying your braid sizes. This cool look is perfect for multiple occasions and suits several makeup looks.
Taraji P. Henson
“Empire” star Taraji P. Henson added flair to her half-up, half-down ‘do with side cornrows for Spike TV’s Guys’ Choice Awards (via Essence). Try this when you want a flexible braided style.
Get actress and author Gabrielle Union’s gorgeous look. The “Bring It On” star added wooden beads and gold accessories to her mid-length Fulani braids.
Are you looking to take your straight-back cornrows to the next level? Try Halsey’s easy and cute half-up, half-down braids from the 2017 Jingle Ball (via Teen Vogue).
For the 2021 “Space Jam” premiere (via UPI), actress Sonequa Martin-Green showed off her cool shaved haircut with side-swept blond cornrows. Try this if you’re also rocking the side buzzcut.
Actress and singer Serayah McNeill turned heads with ombre blond Fulani braids. The former “Empire” star coupled her cute hairstyle with a natural makeup look.
Singer Janelle Monáe stayed true to her signature black and white look at the “Queen & Slim” premiere. She rocked long, black cornrows with white accessories woven into her braids.
Sho Madjozi put a twist on her Fulani braids. The rapper and singer added platinum blond hair and styled her cornrows into a high bun.
Jada Pinkett Smith
Easily achieve Jada Pinkett Smith‘s classic cornrow hairstyle. All you need to do is braid seven medium-sized cornrows straight back and let the braids hang loose.
Known as the Golden Barbie, model Jasmine Sanders stuck to her moniker when she wore blond cornrows to a 2017 Madeworn pop-up event (via Vogue). The braids matched perfectly with her gold jewelry and bold red lip.
Superstar Rihanna further proved braids can be high fashion. The singer and business mogul paired crisscross patterned Fulani braids with a glamorous look at the 2019 British Fashion Awards (via Elle).
Lil’ Mo kept it fun for the “Power” premiere. The “Superwoman” singer opted for floor-sweeping platinum blond cornrows, which you can achieve with braiding hair or a custom wig.
Regina King looked elegant when she wore cornrows with a side part. The multi-hyphenate talent completed her look by wrapping her braids into a low bun.
Spice Girl Mel B kept it cute and chic with her straight-back braided look at the “Angry Birds” premiere in 2016 (via Daily Mail). Try this style for any event.
At the 2015 Screen Actors Guild Awards (via People), actress Lupita Nyong’o pulled her mini cornrows into a high bun for a regal updo. She paired the style with a glam makeup look.
Singer Fleur East flaunted her fro by adding cornrows on one side and letting her locks flow on the other at the “I Am Bolt” premiere in 2016 (via The Telegraph). Try this with curls of any length.
Model Joan Smalls sizzled with red ombre cornrows at the 2018 Revolve Festival (via W magazine). Make this look your own by adding your favorite color to your braids.
Ashley Jackson hit the 48th NAACP Image Awards red carpet with mini cornrows braided in three directions and a curly ponytail (via Los Angeles Times). Jackson completed the look with shimmery eyes and a coral lip.
Little Mix member Leigh-Anne Pinnock added green hair and gold accessories to the five cornrows that framed her face. Make this look your own by trying your favorite color.
Actress Ruth Negga attended the 2021 SCAD Savannah Film Festival in a beautiful cornrow hairstyle (via Daily Mail). The “Passing” star’s look featured an old Hollywood-esque pinned bang.
Actress Sanaa Lathan debuted a fun ‘do on Instagram. The actress rocked cornrows braided straight back into space buns, which were wrapped in metallic gold string.
Justine Skye remixed her signature purple hair for a laidback back, sporty look. The “Back for More” singer braided her cornrows into a high ponytail and added a smokey eye.